Apostrophes in German

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When to use an apostrophe in German

The apostrophe (der Apostroph) is used much less in German than it is in English.

Check out our easy overview to learn when to use an apostrophe in German (and when not to!), then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

Use an apostrophe in German …

  • to show possession but only with names that end in an s sound (ce/s/ss/ß/tz/x/z)
Johannes Brahms’ OrgelwerkeJohannes Brahms’ organ works
Grace’ neue WohnungGrace’s new flat
Only apostrophe, no s
  • to show missing letters (e.g. in slang short forms and abbreviated place names)
Ich habe ’ne ganze Stunde gebraucht.It took me a whole hour.
Auf dem Ku’damm (= Kurfürstendamm) in Berlin gibt es viele Restaurants.In Ku’damm in Berlin there are lots of restaurants.
’nauf = hinauf
’nein = hinein
  • with the contracted forms of auf den/auf dem and in den
Stell den Topf auf’n Herd. Oder steht er schon auf’m Herd?Put the pot on the stove. Or is it already on the stove?

Don’t use an apostrophe in German …

  • to show possession; just add the letter s
Hannas Pony = Hanna’s horse
Meyers Hund = Meyer’s dog
Only s, no apostrophe
  • when a shortened word is easy to read despite missing letters (e.g. only the final e has been dropped)
Heut hab ich was Seltsames erlebt.Today something weird happened to me. (= heute, habe, etwas)
Ich segle oft.I sail often. (= segele)
Red lauter.Speak up. (= Rede)
  • to shorten adverbs with her
rauf = herauf
rein = herein
  • with contractions; (prepositions combined with a definite article, e.g. bei + dem = beim)
Ich gehe ins Schwimmbad.I’m going to the pool.
Michael, komm doch ans Fenster!Michael, come to the window!
  • with plurals and other words that end in an s (der Deppenapostroph)
die DVDs
not: die DVD’s
not: Anana’s
not: link’s

The apostrophe is optional in German …

  • with the contracted form of es (s/’s)
Hallo Opi, wie gehts/geht's?Hi, Grandad, how are you?
Wenns/Wenn's dir gefällt …If you like it …

Sometimes, German uses a possessive apostrophe to avoid misunderstandings:

Andreas Vogel ist sehr loud.Andrea’s bird is very loud.
OR: Andreas Vogel is very loud.
not clear if the sentence refers to a bird that belongs to Andrea, or a person called Andreas Vogel
Andrea’s Vogel ist sehr laut.Andrea’s bird is very loud.
the bird belongs to Andrea
Andreas' Vogel ist sehr laut.Andreas’ bird is very loud.
the bird belongs to Andreas